Today’s Q’s for O – 7/15/11

By Eliza

Jul 15, 2011 12:18pm

gty obama debt presser ll 110715 wb Today’s Q’s for O – 7/15/11


TAPPER: Thank you, Mr. President. You've said that reducing the deficit will require shared sacrifice.  We know — we have an idea of the taxes that you would like to see raised on corporations and on Americans in the top two — tax brackets.  But we don't yet know what you specifically are willing to do when it comes to entitlement spending. 

In the interest of transparency, leadership and offering – also showing the American people that you have been negotiating in good faith, can you tell us one structural reform that you are willing to make to one of these entitlement programs that would have a major impact on the deficit?  Would you be willing to raise the retirement age?  Would you be willing to means test Social Security or Medicare?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We've said that we are willing to look at all those approaches.  I've laid out some criteria in terms of what would be acceptable.  So for example, I've said very clearly that we should make sure that current beneficiaries, as much as possible, are not affected, but we should look at what can we do in the out years so that, over time, some of these programs are more sustainable.  I've said that means testing on Medicare, meaning people like myself, if — you know, I'm going to be turning 50 in a week, so –

TAPPER:  Happy birthday.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I'm starting to think a little bit more about Medicare eligibility.  (Laughter.)  The — the — (chuckles) — yeah, I'm going to get my AARP card soon and the discounts.  But the — you know, you can envision a situation where, for somebody in my position, me having to pay a little bit more on premiums or co-pays or things like that would be appropriate. And again, that could make a difference.

So we've been very clear about where we're willing to go.  What we're not willing to do is to restructure the program in the ways that we've seen coming out of the House over the last several months, where we would voucherize the program and you potentially have senior citizens paying $6,000 more.

I view Social Security and Medicare as the most important social safety nets that we have.  I think it is important for them to remain as social insurance programs that give people some certainty and reliability in their golden years.

But it turns out that making some modest modifications in those entitlements can save you trillions of dollars.  And it's not necessary to completely revamp the program.  What is necessary is to say, you know, how do we make some modifications, including, by the way, on the providers' side.  I think that it's important for us to keep in mind that, you know, the drug companies, for example, are still doing very well through the Medicare program, and although we have made drugs more available at a cheaper price to seniors who are in Medicare, through the Affordable Care Act, there's more work to potential be done there.

So if you look at a balanced package even within the entitlement programs, it turns out that you can save trillions of dollars while maintaining the core integrity of the program.

TAPPER:  And the retirement age?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You know, I'm not going to get into specifics. As I said, Jake, everything that you mentioned are things that we have discussed. But what I'm not going to do is to ask for even — well, let me put it this way. If you're a senior citizen and a modification potentially cost you a hundred or 200 bucks a year or more, or even if it's not affecting current beneficiaries, somebody who is 40 today 20 years from now is going to end up having to pay a little bit more, the least I can do is to say that people who are making a million dollars or more have to do something as well.  And that's the kind of trade-off — that's the kind of balanced approach and shared sacrifice that I think most Americans agree needs to happen.

TAPPER:  Thank you.

-Jake Tapper

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